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Sunday, February 17, 2013
Mouth Device in Clinical Trials as TBI Treatment
Thousands of nerve fibers in it help us eat, drink and swallow. Without them, we would not taste. The tongue helps us speak. Quietly, its surface defends our bodies from germs.
Yet for everything the tongue can do, perhaps one of its most exciting roles is to serve as a direct "gateway" to the brain through thousands of nerve endings.
Now researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NeuroHabilitation Corporation are leveraging the power of those tiny nerves. They are aiming to restore lost physical and mental function for service members and civilians who suffered traumatic brain injury or stroke, or who have Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis.
The treatment involves sending specially-patterned nerve impulses to a patient's brain through an electrode-covered oral device called a "PoNS," a battery-operated appliance placed on the tongue. The 20-30 minute stimulation therapy, called cranial nerve non-invasive neuromodulation, or CN-NiNM, is accompanied with a custom set of physical, occupational, and cognitive exercises, based on the patient's deficits. The idea is to improve the brain's organizational ability and allow the patient to regain neural control.
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